AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) have had to contend with the fact that fewer and fewer Americans want to have landlines. Each of the companies has to deal with support of these huge legacy businesses, which require the maintenance of endless miles of infrastructure and tens of thousands of employees who support them. The problem is worst in rural states, where as many as 50% of households are wireless only, having abandoned their home phones, probably permanently.
According to a new study by the Pew Research Center:
The state where people most rely on their cellphones is not, as you might think, a busy metropolis (like New York) or a city crowded with texting college students (like Boston).
First among the states in which people have severed their home phones is Idaho, where 52.3% of people are “wireless only.”
Mississippi is second, with 49.4% of adults living in wireless-only households, according to Pew. Third is Arkansas at 49%. Pew reports that “Washington, D.C. came in fifth at 46%, just behind Utah.”
At the far end of the spectrum is “New Jersey, where 78.9% of households have one (landline).”
Pew offers other statistics about wireless-only households, but they do little to explain the state-by-state numbers. Based on demographic measurement:
The wireless-only lifestyle is especially predominant among the poor and the young. According to the CDC, nearly two-thirds (65.6%) of adults ages 25-29 lived in households with only wireless phones, as did three-in-five (59.9%) 30- to 34-year-olds and a majority (54.3%) of adults ages 18-24. A majority of adults living in poverty (54.7%) lived in a wireless-only household, versus 47.5% of what the CDC calls the “near-poor” and 35.3% of non-poor adults; wireless-only households also predominate among Hispanics, renters and adults living with roommates.
But Idaho does not have a substantially higher percentage of young adults than New Jersey does, so demographic and geographic data, take together, do not tell much of a story.
What the data do say is that the landline business is a crumbling one, which large phone companies need to support, even if the support is financially draining.